Darren Hillier recalls a mega catch from Horton Church Lake.
My main objective in the coming months is to learn as much as I can about the RK Leisure Kingsmead complex and hopefully catch a few on the way. In the past few weeks, I’ve tried numerous lakes on the complex including the main challenge, Horton Church Lake. Rewards are there to be had and, with the Lake producing 16 forties within a week, it certainly seemed to be fishing well. The majority of the larger residents had visited the bank, and at good weights too, but the second biggest mirror, known as Hercules, hadn’t yet made an appearance. Anglers were all talking about it, wondering if and when Hercules would get caught and what weight could she be. Her last recorded best weight was 47½lb – what a fish! “If only...” I thought.
Come Thursday morning and with bait preparations in mind, I decided to go for a simple approach: boilies. I prepared three kilos of 15mm Equinox mixed together with two kilos of 18mm Equinox. I like to put as much attraction as possible into the water, so I lightly coated the boilies using the CC Moore Response+ Spice, plus Hemp Oil, which I left to soak overnight.
As I was on a late shift that week, I planned to leave around 3.30am for the hour-and-20-minute drive down the M4 to Horton, hopefully arriving at 5am. First light on Church Lake is a good time to see carp activity.
Upon arriving at the Lake, my first instinct was to try the area where they had been showing the previous weekend. The wind was still blowing in an easterly direction, so it had to be a good starting point. With dawn appearing it wasn’t too long before I saw the first show. I sat down in a vacant swim called Heart Tails where I had a good view and spent some time watching the activity of carp showing all over. There was one swim next to me called Springate’s that had the most activity in front of it, but sadly this swim was occupied.
I stood in the swim for ages and eventually an angler appeared. I introduced myself and spoke of the activity of carp showing in front of his swim. To my amazement, he was only doing a quick overnighter and was in the process of packing away for work. With bucket in hand I decided to claim the swim. I left Chris to pack away and walked around to the lodge to sign in. I spoke to a few anglers on my way around and gained some local advice on Springate’s. It was apparent that there was a hard silt spot at around 40 yards out, aiming towards some background trees. With this in mind I signed in and returned to the car park, collected my gear from the van and proceeded to the swim.
With the rods set up, I decided to use 14mm Dairy Supreme pop-up hookbaits. Since I wasn’t aware of what the bottom was like I chose a rig that would suit all possible situations: the chod. Using Korda components, I set up a critically balanced one-inch choddy running between two No Trace Beads around five inches apart. I cast towards the clipped 40-yard mark, aiming toward the background trees. Both rods were felt down with a nice firm donk. Catapulting around 30 Equinox boilies over each rod, I continued setting up base camp. After a few hours of watching the carp rolling in the area, I decided it was time to get my head down. Tiredness had kicked in.
It was around 2.30pm when I was awoken by a few bleeps on the right-hand rod. As I looked out, I noticed the bobbin had come off. I got up to investigate and noticed the line had pulled tight too. I lifted into it and felt good pressure on the other end. At this point, I realised I was into my first fish. Immediately the carp kited right around into the bay; it was apparent this carp knew where to go. I put as much side strain as possible on it, managed to turn the carp’s head back towards me and started to gain some line. The fight continued in front of me and slowly but surely I managed to gain the upper hand. Soon I managed to slip the net under my first Church Lake mirror, weighing in at 35¾lb. With photos done, I was delighted with the result. After repositioning the rod and baiting with a few more pouches of Equinox, I sat back to relax. All resident carp here have names and, after showing the pictures to some visitors, it became apparent I’d caught a carp called Matt’s Mate. Nothing more occurred throughout the course of the afternoon, and early evening I baited up the area with a further 50 baits but decided to leave the rods out.
Early morning arrived and it all seemed quiet – it was like a totally different situation. Even though the wind was still blowing into the swim, the carp seemed inactive. Early afternoon came about with a lack of action and I decided to have a feel around with the marker rod. Spending some time markering about I got more of an understanding of the topography of the swim. It ranged from 13½ft to 15ft with areas starting to grow short strands of weed. The area I fished the previous day wasn’t too far away from a 13½ft hump, still aiming towards the background trees; in fact, it was an extra four yards away. The area was still silty but had really nice donk as I felt the lead down. I decided to clip up to 44 yards and started fishing the top of this 13½ft hump, slowly introducing a light spread of Equinox boilies on a regular basis. Yet again the afternoon and evening passed without a single sign or indication, but I was convinced the carp were still in the area so I left the rods out for the night again. I was happy with the cast and presentation so I decided I didn’t want to disturb the swim any more than I had to.
Waking up the following morning, the wind direction had changed. This time it was coming from the South West, blowing from right to left across the swim. It was around 7.30am when I saw two carp show within five minutes over my left-hand rod. I grabbed my mobile phone and decided to try filming the carp showing. I was two minutes into the filming when my right-hand rod suddenly ripped into action. Without thinking, I launched my mobile phone somewhere and ran out to the rod. It was apparent that I was into another Church Lake carp and this time the fight was more intense; it felt like a much larger carp. Learning from the last capture I managed to keep the carp from charging right. The battle seemed to go well and within a few moments I had the carp only a few rod-lengths out. This seemed to continue for a few more minutes with the carp moving right to left and vice versa. With my knees starting to tremble, I was starting to wonder whether it was ever going to give up. Not long afterwards my prayers were answered when the carp decided to come up to gulp for some air. Slowly I was manoeuvring it towards me and I finally managed to slip the net under fish number two.
Looking down into the landing net I could see that this was no thirty; the thickness of the shoulders was telling me this could be in the forties. After securing the landing net to the platform, I made my way over to a neighbour for assistance. Kindly Phil came straight over to lend a hand. As I was setting up the camera and scales, Phil had a look at the carp. His first reaction was: “I think that’s Hercules.” I just smiled and laughed it off. With everything sorted we proceeded with the weigh-in and pictures. I was truly shocked when I saw the scales swing past the 40lb mark and well beyond; I just couldn’t believe what was happening. After closer inspection we finally agreed on 49lb 6oz. This was a biblical moment and, somewhat in shock, I realised it was also a new PB. It was a well proportioned fish with such wonderful colours. With the pictures taken we returned the big girl back to where she belongs. Phil shook my hand and returned to his swim.